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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Garden Club of America's National Affairs Legislative Meeting, Washington,D.C.

02/26/2003
Remarks for Governor Christine Todd Whitman
Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
at the
Garden Club of America=s National Affairs Legislative Meeting
Washington, D.C.

February 26, 2003


Thank you Maureen (Ogden) for that introduction.

After almost two feet of snow a week ago and more snow today, I want to thank this group for giving me hope B hope for warmer weather, gardens in full bloom and a reminder that Spring is indeed around the corner B even if the groundhog thought otherwise.

Since your founding in 1913, the Garden Club of America has played an active role in promoting the health of our environment and the preservation of our natural resources.

Working with the land fosters a deep appreciation for all nature has to offer. It teaches the value of healthy soil in which to plant seeds, clean water to nourish plants, and bright sun undimmed by haze to make our gardens grow. This is something I learned growing up on a farm in New Jersey and something that many of you have learned first hand as well.

That = s why it = s an honor to be with you today and to have the opportunity to talk about the work this Administration is doing on behalf of the environment. As Administrator of the EPA, my goal is simple B to leave America = s air cleaner, its water purer, and its land better protected than it was when I took office. I= d like to share with you some of the accomplishments and some of the work we still need to do in these three areas.

First, cleaner air. A year ago President Bush proposed the most significant improvement to the Clean Air Act in more than a decade. His Clear Skies Initiative will achieve mandatory reductions of 70 percent in three of the most dangerous air pollutants emitted by power plants B nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury.

Clear Skies uses the power of the market to achieve results. Rather than setting individual targets on particular smokestacks, it sets mandatory reductions on the industry as a whole B and gives facilities flexibility in how it meets those reductions.

This approach is not untried. It is modeled on the acid rain program that was part of the Clean Air Act amendments passed in 1990. That program has had enormous success in reducing the threat of acid rain. It has achieved significant reductions in sulfur dioxide emissions B the pollutant that leads to acid rain B with near-universal compliance and at lower costs than anticipated.

Clear Skies will set a clear, objective standard for mandatory reductions, and, while it sets the goal, Clear Skies does not regulate the path to meeting that goal. This flexibility enables states and facilities to pursue the most cost effective approach to cleaner air and helps ensure our ability as a nation to respond quickly and efficiently to changes in the energy marketplace.

As a result, Clear Skies will help maintain energy diversity and continue the trend of lower electricity prices.

The Clean Air Act has gone far in improving the quality of the air we breathe, but Clear Skies will go even further.

By using this market-based approach to reducing the emissions of NOx, SO2 , and mercury, we will remove 35 million more tons of these pollutants from the air over the first ten years of our Clear Skies Initiative than what the current Clean Air Act would achieve in that time frame.

Clear Skies will also provide dramatic health benefits to the American people, including annually reducing premature deaths by 12,000 and preventing15 million days when sufferers of asthma and other respiratory illnesses are unable to work, go to school, or carry out their normal day to day activities because of bad air quality.

Across our nation, Clear Skies will result in measurable improvements to the environment. From virtually eliminating chronic acidity in the northeastern lakes to restoring visibility at our national parks, Clear Skies will produce measurable results above and beyond what is achievable under current law.

Signing Clear Skies into law is one of the President = s top domestic goals for the year. And that = s because Clear Skies is a clear win for the American people. It will clean up our air, increase energy security, improve public health, and protect our lakes rivers, and streams.

Water is another area of major concern for us, in fact, I believe strongly that water quality and quantity issues will likely pose the greatest environmental challenge of the 21st century.

Since passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, we have solved many of the problems resulting from the direct discharge of pollutants into America = s waterways through improved sewage treatment and industrial wastewater management. As a result, many of America = s waters are once again safe for drinking, swimming, and fishing.

However, the challenges we face in 2003 are not as clearly defined as those we faced 30 years ago. It was pretty obvious back then that the direct dumping of waste into our rivers had to stop, but today the major contributor to water pollution nationwide is much more difficult to address B nonpoint source pollution.

Nonpoint source pollution is pollution that is created miles away from where it ends up. The runoff from city streets and rural farms, from parking lots and suburban lawns, are all nonpoint sources of water pollution.

Countless small acts, such as changing your oil in your driveway without cleaning up leaks or over-fertilizing your garden can add up to big problems. In fact, every eight months, non-point sources discharge as much oil into coastal waters as did the Exxon Valdez spill.

Nonpoint source pollution is a serious problem, and unfortunately we can = t just turn a pipe off and declare the problem solved. Achieving the next generation of environmental progress in water will demand the adoption of a watershed-based approach.

Our focus on watersheds will help transform the way Americans think about how they can make a difference for cleaner water. As people learn more about the ways even small, individual actions can add up to big environmental consequences, they will become an active partner in our effort to leave America = s waters cleaner for generations to come.

The President = s proposed budget for the second year in a row includes funding for a watershed initiative that builds partnerships for cleaner water. The watershed initiative helps us craft solutions for each watershed based on its unique needs and challenges. We will again be choosing a number of America = s most threatened watersheds to receive this funding.

All around our country communities and individuals are already taking the initiative to restore watersheds and protect rivers and lakes. In fact, many creative and innovative methods for dealing with our water quality issues are being put into action at the local level. That is why EPA created the Clean Water Partners program to recognize the remarkable work that is being done to enhance the health of our nation = s waters.

From a community-based effort right here in Washington to restore the Anacostia River basin to a program to address elevated bacterial levels at the beaches along Orange County, California, our Clean Water Partners are setting an important example for other communities to follow.

Focusing on the importance of watershed-based planning and working in partnership with communities and local governments are the new tools we must use to ensure purer water in the years ahead.

Finally, let me touch on how we are working to better protect the land.

The most significant accomplishment in this area is the passage of historic brownfields legislation. As many of you know, a brownfield is a parcel of land that is polluted and unused B a blight on the landscape and a drain on the vitality of the community in which it is located.

Last year, we saw the results of nearly a decade worth of effort when President Bush signed into law brownfields legislation that will help communities all across America transform neighborhood eyesores into community assets.

Brownfields restoration is a win-win for everyone B from the children who have new places to play when a brownfield is turned into a ballfield, to the parents who have new jobs, when a brownfield becomes the site of a new office building or retail store.

Of course, an area of particular importance to gardeners everywhere is EPA = s work to regulate the use of pesticides. From ensuring that older pesticides meet current safety standards to exploring the use of new pesticide technology, EPA is working to reduce the risks pesticides pose to our land and human health.

I = ve brought with me today some samples of the wide variety of publications EPA produces to promote pesticide safety, which can be a useful tool for the garden clubs you represent.

From pesticide safety and brownfields to watersheds and Clear Skies, the environmental policies we are pursuing reflect a deep understanding that our environmental quality is closely linked to our quality of life.

The President has laid out his vision for the future of our environment, and as an Administration we have a responsibility to the American people to pursue these goals and accomplish lasting and beneficial change.

However, the government can = t do it all.

The environment is an integral part of all our lives. Whether it = s clean lakes to enjoy on hot summer days, vibrant gardens in which to hold a family picnic, community renewal to enrich our neighborhoods, or better air for our children to breathe, all of us benefit from a healthy environment and all of us have a responsibility to ensure that we have one.

Our individual actions B from recycling a soda can to planting a tree to cleaning up a local stream B do, indeed, make a difference. That is why the work that you do to educate your communities, pursue local conservation efforts, and raise awareness about the quality of our environment is so important.

If we are to succeed and A protect our environment in ways that generations before us could not have imagined@ as the President called for in his State of the Union, then Congress, this Administration, states, and citizens must all rise to meet that challenge.

Only by working together can we ensure that the environment we leave our children and grandchildren is a healthy and strong inheritance.

Thank you and I = d be happy to take any questions.